Blake Smith

create. code. learn.


sharing reinvented

Software developers are in a very unique situation. We’re lucky in that the work we do is also the work that enables us to do our work better. The connections we make from the tools we build are what allow the boundaries of possible to be pushed. The generous sharing of other people in our field helps us to build something that we couldn’t have done on our own. It’s this sharing and openness that has lead to such a vibrant and blossoming tech community.

It’s in the nature of software developers to share. When I tell other people that I’m working on a piece of software, they often ask who I’m going to sell it to. I tell them that I give away most of what I work on. This leads to some strange looks. I tell them that the shared benefit of the community being able to use what I’ve made makes everyone better. It makes us able to do more with less. Innovation becomes easier because we aren’t all reinventing the wheel.

Yet how many other professions are all still reinventing their own wheels?

It takes a lot of unlearning from school to reculture yourself to want to give away your work. In school you were punished if you let anyone else use your work. The teachers wanted everyone to reinvent each wheel. For the purpose of learning, this is ok, but how much of that thought pattern must we undo in order to learn how to share?

My wife is an elementary school teacher. She’s very excited about this new social tool called Pinterest. I didn’t quite understand it at first, but now I do. When I watch her browse on Pinterest, she’s always looking at craft and teacher ideas. She’s reaching out to the community and mining for new things she can build on. She’s engaged in a community that’s finally starting to share. She’s finding blogs and resources that are connecting her with other teachers. This is why she loves it so much: Pinterest is what github is to teachers (and many other professions for that matter).

This culture of sharing is still in it’s infancy. For most people, we’ve been taught our entire lives that the work we produce is scarce, and that sharing it with others will help them get ahead of you. This has not been my experience. I have seen firsthand that when a community is eager to learn, eager to share and be generous, it will thrive beyond what anyone can predict. New ideas and innovations spring up out of connectedness that could never have existed in isolation. When we are generous, when we share with others, we invite them to come along with us.

Building something that can benefit the lives of others is only the beginning. It’s not just about building things, it’s about new ways of behaving. It’s the beginning of a way of thinking about the world. It’s a way of seeing that the excess of need can be given away. It’s to want more not so you can keep more to yourself, but so that you can give away and share more with others.

Are you building that community? Are you being generous? If you let this culture of sharing find its way into your core, you will be changed forever, I promise.

about the author

Blake Smith is a Principal Software Engineer at Sprout Social.